This letter was written by Anne Nancy Hinsdale (1769-1851), a cousin of Emma Willard – the preceptress of the Troy Female Seminary. When Mrs. Willard traveled to Europe in 1830, she placed her sister, Mrs. Almira Lincoln, in charge of the school, and installed her cousin Nancy as matron of the household. By 1841, Nancy was serving in the capacity of Vice-Principal of the seminary.
Nancy was the daughter of Rev. Theodore Hinsdale (1738-1818) and Anna Bissell (1748-1817) of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Mrs. Emma Willard’s mother was a sister of Nancy’s father. Before joining the Troy Female Seminary in 1830, Miss Hinsdale conducted her own academy in Pittsfield.
Nancy Hinsdale’s death was announced in the 27 May 1851 issue of the Boston Evening Transcript:
At Troy, N.Y., 16th inst, Nancy Hinsdale, 82, the venerable senior Vice President of the Troy Female Seminary, formerly of Pittsfield, Mass.
Addressed to Miss Fanny P. Hinsdale, Poplar Mount, Virginia
Troy [New York]
May 31st 1841 Monday
My Ever dear Niece,
By this time, no doubt, you have ceased to expect a letter from me during the present. For various reasons, I postponed from time to time answering your interesting letter (don’t ask me to name the date), but about four weeks since I almost filled a sheet for your perusal, leaving Ann L. space for a post script. Just as this time she was taken ill with a scarlet sore throat attended with fever and my anxiety for her laid the letter quite aside till she seemed recovering, then I hoped she would soon finish it, but she has lingered along – had two relapses – and yesterday morning for the first time since her illness went to the breakfast table; and I shall have her to tell for herself the rest of her story.
So it seems Fanny you have decided to remain in Virginia another year. This as you consent to stay a little longer, and a little longer, the danger in my view is that of losing in a degree your interest in your northern friends. The warm-hearted, frank manners of the South are ever interesting, but I think there are some qualities at the North, which weigh well in the opposite scale.
I have very little to communicate to you of our absent friends. I presume you learn more particulars from them than I do. Your Uncle William and children have been most deeply afflicted. Your Aunt’s death was so unexpected and sudden the shock was peculiarly heavy. You were perhaps informed that her mother, Mrs. Wing, died a short time before her decease. Mr. Wing has been helpless many months from paralysis. And Mrs. Moseley is very infirm, so that the dear girls not only mourn the loss of their mother, but living friends make strong demands upon their sympathy.
By a letter from Mary Ann and Myra about a fortnight since, I learn “all well” now with them, as well as Henry and wife. And your father had recently been to Hinsdale [Massachusetts] and passed a Sabbath with them. [Rev.] Mr. [William A.] Hawley is dismissed from his pastoral charge there, and he church and Society have given a call to a young gentleman by the name of [Rev. Seth W.] Bannister to settle with them as their pastor, and his ordination is appointed for about the 20th of June if I rightly remember. I hope it may prove a happy exchange – especially for your Uncle.
Do you hear from poor afflicted Frank? I wrote to him immediately on hearing of the departure of his dear wife, but have had no reply, although I was confident I gave the letter a right direction. I imagine Frank to be peculiarly solitary. I well know his affectionate disposition, and know enough of his Mary to lover her much, and to learn her affection for him. I hope grace has enabled him to say, “thy will be done. “
We have heard nothing from Charles for a long time. And Theodore – where is he? If he is in the land of the living, why does he not write to some of us? O, Fanny, you cannot imagine the deep affection I have ever felt for thou dear (once) little boys – the pleasure I enjoyed in the care of them – and the pain I suffered in leaving them – and much more since, in their dispersion. While multitudes have been the mercies I have received at the hand of my Heavenly Father, many have been my trials and afflictions. But if I may be of those who are entitled to the promise that all things shall work together for good, all will finally be well. Thanks be to Almighty grace there is a city which hath everlasting foundations where separations and sorrows are no more. Here may we and all we love, have our habitation.
Two from this Seminary – one a pupil, the other a resident, each about 20 years of age – have recently entered, as we trust, this glorious city. The first mentioned, at about four o’clock of the morning of the 10th inst., as she awoke her room all by a grown of distress. She immediately called in help, but nothing could be effected for her relief. She had ceased to breathe and very soon her pulsation ceased and all was still. It had been supposed for a length of time that she had an affliction of the heart. The other had been infirm for several years with numerous complaints and other infirmities. She had of late become more than usually debilitated, and left for a change of air and relaxation, and went to the house of a friend about 12 miles distant where after a few days she had a severe attack of fever which terminated her mortal existence in about 36 hours. Both of the deceased had given bright evidences of piety. A usual degree of health is enjoyed in the Seminary.
Do remember me affectionately to Miss Calkins if you are still conversant with her. Most affectionately, your Aunt, — N. Hinsdale
My dear cousin,
You would have heard from Aunt long ago but she has delayed her letter on my account – that I might add a post-script. For a few weeks past, ill health has prevented me from attending to my regular duties. I have never but once before in my life been so long sick. But I am now very much better, and today have heard one of my classes, and think there is a prospect that I shall soon recover my strength. I have found it quite a trial to be laid aside and feel myself useless, and if by the mercy of God I am again restored to full health, I think I shall enjoy it with gratitude.
How is your health this summer? I hope you are well and happy. When do you intend visiting Berkshire again? I suppose we know less of Pittsfield than you do. I was much pleased to receive a paper from George the other day, and we heard from cousin Mary Ann of your Father’s being in Hinsdale not long since, so that we suppose they are all in usual health at your dear home.
When have you heard from Charles and where is he? I must depend on you, I believe, for all information from him. I have not heard from Frank for a long time. Will he remain in Ohio?
You are probably enjoying a pleasant summer in Virginia. We have had very cold, unpleasant weather until with about two weeks, since which time vegetation has come forth very rapidly and the face of nature is now beautiful.
Now dear cousin, do write me immediately for I am very desirous that our correspondence should continue. I will engage if I am well, to perform my part punctually hereafter. Very affectionately, your cousin, — Ann